NewSpace is the Vanguard of Human Civilization

NewSpace is the Vanguard of Human Civilization

November 23, 2009 Opinion

When we declared in 1988 that our purpose was “to unleash the power of free enterprise and lead a united humanity permanently into the Solar System” few people asked us: “who exactly will be doing the leading?” Those who did ask were usually overwhelmed by our audacity in answering: “the Space Frontier Foundation is an organization of people dedicated to opening the space frontier. We are the people who will lead humanity into the Solar System.”

What seemed pure braggadocio 21 years ago has become reality. Foundationers are working in numerous NewSpace companies, burrowed deep inside the US military, holding day jobs at the various NASA centers and even in leadership positions at NASA HQ. And everywhere Foundationers go they find the path forward has been at least partially cleared by the power of our ideas.

So, when the Augustine Committee concluded “that the ultimate goal of human exploration is to chart a path for human expansion into the solar system,” this wasn’t simply the work of the one Foundationer in the room, persuading all present to embrace our vision. It wasn’t even his proposal! All of us made this breakthrough possible by “changing the conversation about space.” When commercial crew and cargo made its way into public policy, it wasn’t just the work of Foundationers at the companies offering these services. All of us made this breakthrough possible by giving of our time and money. And, when Ares I is finally cancelled, it will not only be the work of our “kill Ares” swat team. All of us will have made this breakthrough possible through years of dedication to our shared vision.

In this context I hope you will see it as more than arrogance when I assert that we are engaged in something really, really important, a change as fundamental as the agricultural revolution, a transition as basic as industrialization. This is not the work of a single year, or even a single generation. Yet, it is something we can do. It is something we must do.

Not all of our actions will make much difference, but some of our initiatives will make a greater difference than anybody could possibly predict. Each additional dollar contributed to the Space Frontier Foundation, and each additional volunteer who makes the time to contribute, carries human civilization another step along the path to realizing our full potential. We remain an organization of people dedicated to opening the space frontier to human settlement. We don’t just talk about it. Ours is a heritage of action. We are the doers of NewSpace. And, we need your help.

We know that times are hard for many of you. That’s why two of our largest donors have agreed to match all donations, regardless of size, made between now and Thanksgiving. If you give $50, it becomes $100, if you give $5,000, it becomes $10,000; if you give a million – we’ll give you a call.

To donate by PayPal or credit card click here or send a check to:

Space Frontier Foundation
16 First Ave.
Nyack, NY 10960

To volunteer your time contact Will Watson at

Bob Werb
Chairman of the Board
Space Frontier Foundation

Donate to The Space Frontier Foundation

William J. Watson
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Space Frontier Foundation

Bob Werb
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  • Too bad there was not a similarly enlightened group of individuals working just as hard 50 years ago to form a “Kill Saturn-V” SWAT team, or perhaps several thousand years ago, a “Kill Wheel” SWAT team.

    Perhaps I am mireading your ideology, but it does sound disturbingly like the proclamations of a professed master race that has no faults and can do no wrong.

    Despite the sicerest of dreams, space will remain VERY expensive for the longest time. It will require the efforts and expenses of all. We can not afford to squabble and fight. An ounce of modesty can go a long way when it comes to teamwork.

    But then again, to a master race, “modesty” is an alien concept.


  • J. L. Brown says:

    Hi Nelson!

    [Disclaimer] I am not involved in, or affiliated with the SFF. I am simply a fan. I cannot speak for the orgainization, what follows is simply my opinion.

    Yes, you are misreading the ideology–what there is of it.

    The ideology is simple:
    Humanity needs to spread into space; this is absolutely vital to the long term survival of our species–and maybe the long term survival of all terran life.
    The most effective way of ensuring a long term focus on expanding humanity into space is to make the goal attractive to business; eg, make it possible to make a profit at every step in the process of creating a permanent, sustainable settlement.

    That’s it, really. But NASA is not a commercial enterprise, it is a political body. It answers to masters on the Hill, who are interested in funneling money and jobs to their own constituents. Why would any congressman vote to create a settlement full of voters who will never be in their district? Amongst the inevitable political pork-barreling and horse trading, the vision of creating space settlements gets lost in the mix–even among those very few who even bother to give it a thought. NASA sold the idea of the shuttle on outrageous lies of minuscule costs and scores of flights a year–and they did it for the simple government-bureaucrat reason of trying to hold onto their funding, trying to preserve their own jobs. Politically, space settlement really is NOT a priority.

    Now, the shuttle is done, and the question is what should replace it. The Aries program was conceived as a way to ‘re-purpose’ the shuttle technology. Advocates point to this as a ‘cost saving’ measure, cynics point out that the shuttle-era pork-barrel deals would be largely preserved.

    What is the alternative to Aries? Simple actually–get NASA out of the business of selling launch capacity; instead to focus on space science missions. Without NASA competing with the private sector, we can save the vast sums that would go into developing a shuttle successor (how many flavors of ‘National Areospace Plane’ have there been? How many of these went overbudget & never got off of paper?) and instead redirect a fraction of that to buying launch capacity from the private sector. With the government stimulating (instead of competing with) business, there is a chance of developing the broad technological and industrial base needed to bring launch costs down and open the all important space frontier.

    Quite aside from the politics, Ares I seems like a bad design. Man-rating a first stage which is entirely solid-fuel rockets is very risky. The second stage is hydrogen / oxygen powered, which means a vast & delicate cryogenic fuel tank. With that kind of large, light tank acting like a kite on the top of the vehicle, stability requires extra care. There does not appear to be any kind of engine-out, or abort capability. Couple this with the fact that Aries I would do little more than carry a small capsule — with the real heavy lifting done by the Ares V — to LEO, the rationale for building the Aries I seems pretty thin.

    Lets compare costs: So far the Aries I has cost approximately $400m? How much more to finish development, build the required infrastructure, and start delivering them? How much, counting all of those costs, will an Aries I launch cost? I really cannot say — but I can tell you that the cost to develop the Aries I (through 2015… it might go longer) has risen from twenty-eight billion dollars to about forty billion dollars, and that the upper stage J-2X engine alone costs $20m. I can also tell you how much a Falcon 9 launch to LEO will cost: about $50m — a Falcon 9 Heavy promises to be about $150m or so.

    The private sector looks like it will do a better job, cheaper — reason enough to form a ‘kill Aries-I’ SWAT team.

  • JL:

    Thank you for your observations.

    I can't say that any of your arguments against Ares I sound particularly convincing to me. But more importantly, the commercial sector does not appear to have anything that is significantly better. Cheaper, perhaps.

    However, what you do not appear to understand is that the primary objective of Ares is put crew into LEO as safely as possible. For NASA manned space exploration, crew cost to LEO is a secondary issue.

    IMHO, what we need from the commercial sector are totally new designs, not just rebadged satelite launchers, that are inherently safe and inexpensive (aka Space Ship 1) enough to make orbital space tourism possible. That will not happen overnight, but in 10-20 years commercial could "own" LEO.

    At the moment, however, any call to scrap Ares I would be counterproductive and premature.